Eternal clock by Robert van der Steeg

If you were to assign points to all of my time management skills six months ago and then add them together…you would probably come up with a negative number (some days you still do). Yeah. I’m the one who sits down to check her email “real quick” and discovers that three hours have passed (though that might have something to do with the fact that my alerts are forwarded to my email). Time is not fluid for me…it is either too fast or too slow. And there is never enough of it.

Seriously, between school, a part-time job, homework, fifteen hours of driving, voice practice, piano practice, guitar and chores (thought I try to avoid those) where is a girl supposed to find time to read and write in her week? Plus, I’m trying to be semi-regular with my blog (it helps if there is something for readers to read).

So I came to a simple conclusion: There needs a eighth day in our week. Preferably added to the weekend category and not the weekday.

However, since that didn’t appear to be happening any time soon I decided to do the next best thing.

Learn how to manage my time wisely.

It’s a trick that I have tried many times through high school and college and it’s never really worked out. My lack of persistence probably didn’t help any either. But I think I finally found a system that works for me…and you can find a system that works for you too!

The key to my system is my planner and calendar. When I can I like to have these in the same place. Now, my planner is divided by weeks, with plenty of space for each day’s activities. I can open to a particular week and see what I need to get done. I also try to keep a calendar that I can just jot down tests, due dates, deadlines appointments and the like on. It might also have my favorite TV shows listed…it just might.

Everything goes down in my planner. Forget the syllabus…all my assignment, test and paper dates go in my planner. That way I don’t have to worry about having nine different syllabi (remember, I’m a music major we take, like, a bajillion classes a semester), it’s all right there. Of course, the syllabus is good for other things, so I keep it around, but at least I’m not going to be surprised by any tests (hopefully).

From there I make lists.

Oh, yes, I am a list person. I like making them, I like the feeling I get as I cross things off. It makes me feel powerful (Mwahahaha!). I’m also much more focused when I have a list that tells me what I need to get done that day. Or as I sometimes look at it…these are the obstacles standing between me and my book–DIE!

However you want to structure your system I would suggest having something that looks at your week as a whole and then at each day. I can know that I have a paper and two tests in one week, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be disciplined enough to study for them ahead of time. At the same time, taking things day by day can let things sneak up on you. So I have one list that looks at my whole week so that I can balance things out. Do I have two assignments due for two different classes on Friday? If I were to discover this the day before they were due, I’d be tearing my hair out.

I happen to like my hair, so I try to avoid that.

My weekly list allows me to balance assignments. I’d know to work on one on Wednesday and one on Thursday. As I said before, the daily list gives me something to focus on and cross off each day. I try to give each item a general start time (or a definite one if it’s something that needs one) so that I know about how much of my day has been used up. It helps to keep my day from becoming too full.

A word of caution though: avoid planning out every single minute. You’ll kill yourself. Things happen, you forget to switch the laundry over or you take a route with three school zones. Time gets away from us. Or we happen to be missing an all important piece for that project. Sometimes, you have to reschedule.

Sometimes you crumple the list up and decide, by Zeus, you are going to finish Magic Study today and the rest of the world can just wait.

On that note, makes sure you leave some time for you. I try to leave my whole Sunday afternoon.

So, yes, I have to schedule my writing times, most of the time. But that also helps me to focus. I go, “Alright, I have two hours to write–let’s go!” My words are my uniform, my pen is my weapon. I’m on a mission. Deadlines help us focus like nothing else so use them. Set them for yourself.

Say, “Okay, by the end of the week, I want to have character sketches for A, B, and C” of “By the end of this month, I’d like to be to this point in my story”.

Using both of these tools, your “planner” and deadlines (or goals if you prefer) you will be surprised how  much you start to get done. Even the housework–because, dog-gone-it, I am not letting these dishes stand in the way of me and my book.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to go write.

So what about you? What do you use to keep yourself on track? How do you mark your progress?

(BTW, as proof that I’m not just being anal about this whole “writer’s write” and “make time to write” deal, here’s a post from my friend Dot’s blog. Check it out, she’s got some useful tips.)